Insect farming has been hailed by some as a sustainable alternative to animal agriculture because the requirements for land and water are much lower.

But just as livestock depend on plant food that requires large areas of land to grow, insects also need to get their food from somewhere. Crickets seem to be one of the most commonly farmed insects in North America right now so I'll ask about them specifically. What kind of food is used to feed the crickets, and would it otherwise be human-edible? Are any pre- or post-consumer food waste products used in the raising of insects that will be processed into food for humans?

If crickets are being given food that would otherwise be human-edible, that seems like it would be a net loss in the efficiency of food production.

  • Are you asking about what people can feed crickets in a home-scale operation or are you asking about what large-scale operations do feed crickets? – Jean-Paul Calderone Apr 20 at 19:32
  • @Jean-PaulCalderone I am asking about what large-scale operations do feed crickets. Bonus points for alternatives that would also work at an industrial scale. – Nic Apr 20 at 19:36

I received the following answer after emailing a company that raises crickets.

We use a agricultural feed that includes feed beans, buckwheat, and feed corn non of which are edible by humans. We don't use any pre- or post-consumer waste to feed the crickets for two reasons: we can't control the consistency of taste with a non-regular feed stock and our food regulations won't allow us to feed them waste to then feed to humans. The companies using crickets and other insects as feed stock for fish and poultry are having a lot of success using pre- and post-consumer waste to feed their crickets.

This answer surprised me quite a bit. I've been eating beans, buckwheat, and corn for quite a while so I'm not sure why they're described as non-edible by humans. I thought maybe they were talking about some other part of the plant that humans don't eat, but they went on to say they don't use any pre-consumer waste.

So it seems like insect farms either need to grow/purchase agricultural food as feed for crickets, or they need to sell their crickets as feed for larger animals. Either way, that's a diversion of useful food energy that could have gone toward humans.

It seems like insect farming is less sustainable than growing plant-based food for humans.


Oct 2018 Update I just listened to an interview with a couple farmers from Caspian Acres near Kamloops, BC. At 6:10 the interview confirms that the black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) are fed entirely on food scraps from restaurants in the city, then the matured BSFL are used to feed ducks and other animals.

  • It sounds like this may be a regulatory issue -- what country/state is the supplier located in? Humans can eat food corn, but there isn't anywhere in the US (at least) where you could buy it labeled for human consumption. – LShaver May 13 at 16:47
  • The supplier I contacted is in Canada. – Nic May 13 at 16:50
  • The grade of soy, beans, and buckwheat they are using is not intended for human consumption. this is the case with lots of feed used for animals. It is not any more sustainable. And the food they use makes them all taste crappy. – flummingbird Aug 7 at 16:51

In general crickets are not that selective about their food, they take wet and dry food, could even be fed waste food.

  • Dry food examples: compressed pellets from chicks, fish food, oat flakes, flakes made from vegetables, dry food for cats and dogs, wheat bran.

  • Wet food examples: fruits, salads, dandelion, carrots, herbs.

If animal-based food wastes are used, they need to be sterilized so that no disease can be communicated. Therefore only vegetable foods are given as options for wet food, because wet foods from animals are probably not sterile.

And even crickets need vitamins, so their diet should include a variety of different ingredients.

Your Answer

 

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.